31 Aug 2009

Philippa Gregory in Profile.


When a new Philippa Gregory book is published it's like Take That releasing a new single. It's halfway to the number one spot in the charts as soon as it hits the shelves.

Sure enough The White Queen - a blockbusting tale set amid The War Of The Roses - will today (30.o8.09) hit the top of the Sunday Times Bestseller List, less than two weeks after publication.

With a secession of bestselling novels behind her - including the hugely successful The Other Boleyn Girl which was made into the hit movie starring Scarlett Johansson - Philippa has been hailed as the queen of historical fiction.

Her books sell an astonishing eight million copies a time but in Glasgow last week Philippa admitted to me that despite her success she is something of an accidental author.

She had no intention of becoming a writer and, after completing a doctorate in 18th century literature at Edinburgh University in 1984, her only aim was to be a professional historian.

"However, at the time there were massive cuts in academic funding and they froze all the posts," she remembers. "I couldn't get work and so while I was figuring out what to do, I wrote a novel for fun.

"Suddenly there were English and American publishers bidding for the book, Wideacre, and it was a best seller.

"They signed me up for three books so I thought I'd do that for a bit and then go back to academia. And of course it never happened."

Philippa's books feature powerful female characters from history and are paced - some might say inevitably - with bitchiness and backstabbing, love and hate, intrigue and incest, sex and death.

In other words, the perfect ingredients for blockbuster novels.

Her skill is to bring history to life. It is the storyteller's art but always with painstaking attention to detail. There are no 'Braveheart'-type liberties taken with the facts in a Gregory novel.

For all that, she is no stranger to controversy and her interpretation of historical events and characters has inevitably attracted criticism from those who think they know better. However, Philippa maintains everything in her books is as accurate as it can be.
Apart from her family, Philippa's other passion is her own charity, Gardens For Gambia, a small project which has clearly grown into something she is proud of.

Her eyes light up as she describes meeting a headmaster of a provincial school in the West African country in 1983 and sending him a donation to build one well for his school.

That single plot has grown into 140 others and she's well on her way to her target of a well in each of Gambia's 250 schools.

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Craig Robertson, The Sunday Post.

4 comments:

Sharon's Garden of Book Reviews said...

I run hot and cold on Phillipa. I like most of her books. But couldn't stand Earthly Joys. I have The White Queen...need to get to it!

Good blog!

Petty Witter said...

I like most of her books (some more than others) but not the short stories. I also need to get a copy of The White Queen.

Candy O'Donnell said...

I have never read her books. The genre is just not my stuff.

Petty Witter said...

Each to their own, Candy. I love historicalnovels like Philippa Gregory though I'm not into historical bodice-rippers.